News from the other coast, but news that means a lot in California, a state that a year ago was estimated to have 6.6 million residents with no health insurance. Unknown as of this post: the immediate affect of the ruling in California (or anywhere else outside Virginia).

Judge in Va. strikes down federal health care law

A federal judge declared the Obama administration’s health care law unconstitutional Monday, siding with Virginia’s attorney general in a dispute that both sides agree will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson is the first federal judge to strike down the law, which has been upheld by two others in Virginia and Michigan. Several other lawsuits have been dismissed and others are pending, including one filed by 20 other states in Florida.

Virginia Republican Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli filed a separate lawsuit in defense of a new state law that prohibits the government from forcing state residents to buy health insurance. However, the key issue was his claim that the federal law’s requirement that citizens buy health insurance or pay a penalty is unconstitutional.

Also: See Washington Post’s more nuanced story: Key provision of health-care overhaul ruled unconstitutional. The New York Times has the judge’s 42-page ruling.

Update: From the progressive side, Daily Kos weighs in on the Virginia judge’s decision:

Big story: HCR ruled unconstitutional. Little story: 14 judges disagree

So the “big” story is that a district court judge has ruled that health care reform’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, dealing reform a Massively Major Blow. That must mean the “little” story is that in fourteen previous cases, judges have either dismissed cases against the law’s constitutionality or ruled against those cases.

And from the conservative side, National Review’s The Corner blog reports:

What’s Next for the Virginia Case?

One way or another, an appeal will be filed to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, while the state of Virginia will argue that the case is sufficiently time-sensitive that it should move directly to the Supreme Court.

How long will that process take? On a conference call this afternoon, Brian Gottstein, communications director for Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, said one to two years is the best guess: About one year if the Supreme Court agrees to take the case directly from the district court, two if the case is heard first by the Fourth Circuit (and minus a few months if it goes straight to en banc consideration by all the judges on the Fourth Circuit, bypassing a three-judge panel).


Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at

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